It sounds like an unlikely combination: internal communication and thought leadership. While the former usually aims to inform and create change amongst the internal staff, the latter is usually deployed as a means for a company to stand out from its many competitors. Yet, in some cases, thought leadership can greatly reinforce the impact of internal communication. In some cases, you can even ‘externalize’ some of your internal communication. In today’s ‘open’ business reality, this can be the right thing to do. This blog delves deeper into how we did this recently for one of our clients, the global field and partner marketing team at EMC.
Communicating internal change
How do you get a marketing team of several hundreds of people to adopt new ways of working? The challenge our customer faced was this: the marketing team had been very successful up until now by doing marketing in one set way, but it feared it was not adopting newer, more digital tactics fast enough. So the organization’s marketing leadership team felt a paradigm shift was needed.
This is a great challenge for any internal communication professional. We decided, in consultation with our customer, to create a communication plan that would gradually build momentum over a prolonged period of time, to get the new way of thinking and working accepted and adopted.
From draft to acceptance
At the outset, we started with a white paper which highlighted the main points of view: what is the current state of affairs, what are the challenges we face, what is needed to overcome them, how do we get there? This first discussion document was discussed amongst the marketing managers and adapted several times until an overall sense of direction was agreed upon.
From there on, we crafted a communication plan, which took the key messages to all the marketers across the globe. The 5 page-long white paper was extended into a series of e-booklets, which provided background on what had, by then, been dubbed ‘NEXT Marketing’ – the next level of doing marketing.
Over the course of 9 months, 3 e-booklets were created and distributed among the team. These focused on how sales and marketing would be impacted by the new way of working, what new strategies and tactics were needed and how this would change the marketing organization. Each booklet was accompanied by a series of blogs which were posted internally, recapturing the essence of the long reads. To make it more tangible and also show leadership commitment to the change, a series of video interviews were recorded with different marketing leaders who explained how they were putting these new elements into action within their respective teams. With every new asset that was released, an email notification was sent to every marketer involved. Team members from around the world could engage in the discussion through comments on the intranet and the many internal meetings around the program. Every presentation, even the ones that handled a completely different topic, referred to the campaign, making sure no-one could miss out on ‘NEXT Marketing’. Almost instantly, the new approach popped up in presentations and communications for other teams as well, spreading the message well beyond the impacted marketing team.
This resulted in our customer stating that …
“success is when other teams start using your jargon.”
Taking ‘internal communication’ outside
During the journey towards ‘NEXT Marketing’, it also became clear that the challenges that our customer faced internally, were also relevant to the companies in their extensive partnership network. Because these partners could also become more successful by adopting many of these strategies and tactics, the booklets were also shared externally, and, for a period of time, these were even made available as iPad apps in the iTunes store, freely accessible to all. Taking this internal message outside, also strengthened the overall goal and impact of the marketing campaign. It was clear to all that this is something the company is very serious about.
The result? The mix of thought leadership content with internal communication created greater acceptance for the proposed change. One of the main reasons why change efforts fail is a lack of communication, often combined with a lack of understanding as to why a change is needed. By combining thought leadership with internal communication, these hurdles can be overcome. Granted, this approach will not suit every internal communication project. You need to have something substantial to talk about, like a new strategic direction for a business unit or a team. But when you do, the combination can greatly increase impact.
The fourth booklet
We ultimately created a 4th booklet, specifically for the partnership network of that same customer. This booklet, which recaps the main elements from the 3 previous booklets while also adding some new ones, is freely available. Download it below.
Maybe we can help you as well to combine thought leadership with internal communication. Let’s get in touch and see how we can be of value to you!